teaching is good for you

Today, teachers across the United States will be receiving extra hugs and shiny red apples as their students celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Day. And while the well-deserved extra love will likely bring a smile to their faces, the truth is, teachers are already pretty happy people. According to a 2013 survey by Gallup, teaching ranked as one of the healthiest of professions. Turns out, teaching is good for you.

Because even though teaching can be a challenging, exhausting job with long hours and loads of seemingly-thankless work, it’s also a job that educators report is both creative and rewarding, which directly relates to overall mental health and wellbeing. And as for the fact that they’re admittedly underpaid, multiple studies have found that that stops mattering when there’s a high degree of career satisfaction.

Additionally, teaching is a great way to continue learning; explaining problems or strategies to others has been found to be an effective way to better understand it yourself. And, as most of us know, ongoing education leads to higher levels of overall happiness, too.

But you don’t have to be a full-time educator to reap the benefits of passing information on to others. Casual teaching opportunities — like explaining something about your job to an interested friend, or spending extra time with your own kids on their homework  can spur a phenomenon psychologists call “the protege effect,” which is most commonly seen when students cross-teach. And even just telling and listening to stories can light up the learning centers of the brains, making us more engaged and — you guessed it: Happier.

So today, let your favorite teacher know you appreciate them…and think about how you, too, can be a teacher to someone in your life.